After hearing about Syrian refugees on the news, my kids have been asking me more detailed questions. Why is there a war in Syria? Why are refugees leaving their country? What can we do to help? I put together this list of resources for teachers and parents who are interested in teaching about the Syrian refugee crisis, but don’t know where to start. Please add in any recommendations to the comments below!
Who is Fighting in Syria? Basic Information for Kids
On a very basic level, that can be adapted depending on the kids’ ages, I tell kids that Syria is having a civil war. (For more detailed information, see the BBC’s explanation of who is fighting whom in Syria).
- In 2011, some people were peacefully protesting their government, and soon the government punished them in a violent crackdown. Civilians joined the soldiers who left the army (Free Syrian Army), while the other side was President Assad with his forces.
- Assad has supporters in Iran, Russia, and Lebanon. Many different groups joined the fighting against Assad (and often against each other) including help from the US, Turkey, the Gulf Arabs, and most of the Western world.
- One group that opposes Assad is the Islamic State, who is also an enemy to most of the others who oppose Assad.
- Another minority group who is fighting Assad is the Kurdish fighters, who want independence in the region.
Why are the refugees leaving Syria?
The war in Syria has been going on for over 6 years, and at least 470,000 people have been killed. The cities have been destroyed by bombs, and there is little food and medical care.The economy has been destroyed and poverty is everywhere. Thousands of people are fleeing the violence and evacuating Syria every day. The UN says that 4.8 million refugees have fled to neighboring countries; many have gone to Jordan, Lebanon, and Iraq. More than half of these are children under the age of 18. The kids in the Syrian refugee crisis have lost their home, their school, their friends, and often family members. Some refugees have escaped to the north into Turkey, and many are trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Turkey to Greece.
How can we help alleviate the Syrian Refugee Crisis?
Kids often want a concrete way of helping others in need. One of the best ways to help is to learn about an issue and then spread the word and educate others. I also love the idea of having kids do something concrete to make money to donate. They can have a lemonade stand, bake and sell cookies, host a garage sale with their friends, do a car wash, hold a talent show or kickball game or any number of little services (click here for tons of service projects ideas!). In this way, their hard work can be easily donated to one of the reputable agencies helping Syrian refugees. Finally, older kids can write to their government officials and spread the word via social media so that the refugees are not forgotten.
There are many agencies working on the ground in Syria to help provide food, water, shelter, and medical support to Syrians.
The large well-known organizations include:
- Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders
- International Red Cross
- Save the Children
Smaller organizations (recommended and vetted by PRI- see additional NGO’s here) are:
What are some zero-prep lessons to teach about the Syrian Refugee Crisis?
Learn about the crisis in Syria through a power point, evidence cards, lesson plans, and an action guide. Oxfam has excellent lessons on many global humanitarian issues!
This secondary Social Studies/ELA lesson plan has a power point, videos, discussion questions, and more. Their collection of videos is unparalleled!
This collection of pictures shows the lives of Syrian refugee children through their eyes. The detailed captions and stunning photos are great discussion prompts.
This collection of poetry written by refugees offers primary sources to learn about the people experiencing the hardships.
Using actual refugee stories, these incredible lesson plans map the crisis on a global scale. All of these should be previewed before using (obviously) because of the heart-breaking, emotional aspect.